ABB displays military robotic automation concepts, capabilities

Military Vehicle Exhibition, Aug. 11-12 in Detroit, MI, look at ways to apply industrial robotic technology to automate military supply chain, logistics and field operations.

08/11/2010


The Gladiator – a four-wheel, unmanned concept vehicle with an ABB IRB 140 robot mounted to a front end bracket. Military Vehicle Exhibition and Conference August 11-12, 2010, at the Cobo Convention Center in Detroit, Michigan. The event, sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) is the largest stand-alone military vehicles exhibition in the United States, displaying the latest vehicles, components, and after-market products in the light, medium, and heavy categories.  Participants and attendees include personnel from the U.S. Department of Defense, Military OEMs, component manufacturers, service providers and academia. ABB Robotics, a supplier of industrial robots, is among exhibitors. Exhibits and demonstrations feature a wide variety of existing and emerging vehicle technology with the potential to support military and defense operations.

ABB Robotics says its core business is automating traditional supply chain material handling applications such as packaging and palletizing, and manufacturing applications such as arc welding, assembly and machine tending. Inspired by the improved productivity, quality and workplace safety that ABB robots have provided to a wide variety of industries, ABB said it has recently been working with military organizations in the U.S. and abroad to determine if robotic technology could automate any of the military’s supply chain and logistics operations.

ABB is also working with the Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) to develop unique mobile robot-equipped vehicles that could be used for field applications, possibly including IED (improvised explosive devices) inspection and hazardous material handling.

Because these tasks are repetitive, and in many cases dangerous, the prospect for industrial robots and robot-equipped vehicles to help the military is gaining increasing interest and support.  “The military’s interest in robots for dull, dirty and dangerous tasks is supported by the breadth of productivity gains and improved quality the use of our robots has provided to the automotive industry and a wide variety of other industrial applications,” said Erwin DiMalanta, business development manager, ABB Robotics, North America. “In many instances the introduction of robotic automation has also allowed industrial organizations to remove human labor from repetitive or hazardous activities, into safer, more rewarding jobs.”

The ABB exhibit (Booth #539) includes:

  • The Gladiator – a four-wheel, unmanned concept vehicle with an ABB IRB 140 robot mounted to a front end bracket.  Developed in conjunction with TARDEC, the Gladiator features a multi-functional end-of-arm tool that can grasp or act on certain objects.  It demonstrates ABB’s superior path performance and motion control, and represents the combination of innovation and proven commercial technology that ABB Robotics can provide for military and defense applications.
  • A ABB Welding FlexTrainer – a portable, fully equipped and operational robotic arc welding cell specifically designed for robotic training purposes.  It will feature an IRB 140 robot equipped with an IRC 5 panel mount controller, robotic welding torch and welding power supply.

As part of developing potential mobile robotic-equipped concepts ABB has also collaborated on the development of end-effectors and payload sensors.  For military applications mobile robots would require a collection of interchangeable tools to be readily available on moving platforms much the same way manufacturing robot systems exchange tools for various work cell tasks.  Payload sensors developed in industrial applications help robots easily adjust the path and force to use when handling objects that vary in size, shape, weight and location.

“Adapting the use of reliable, proven industrial robotic technology has the potential to support the military’s operational needs and troops in the field,” added Joe Campbell, vice president sales and marketing for ABB Robotics, North America.  “While our primary interest is to bring continuing innovation to the industrial sector, we recognize the vast potential robots have for many non-industrial applications.”

In August 2009 ABB participated in the US Army’s first “Robotics Rodeo,” which brought together robotics experts and companies from across the country to review and test innovative robotic solutions, and encourage the development of autonomous systems to support the military.  ABB featured the Robotic Retrieval and Transport (RAT) concept vehicle, an IRB 6620 industrial robot mounted to the flat bed of a specially equipped Ford F250 pick-up truck.

www.abb.com/robotics

Also read: ABB Robotics: 10 reasons to buy a robot now; see photos, videos.

- Edited by Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, www.controleng.com



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